Tips for Distance Learning

Adult Basic Education Distance Learning Resource Site

As many adult basic education programs take a break on in-person classes, distance education has become the only instruction they can provide. This will be a challenge for both programs with existing distance options and for those that need to rapidly start one. We hope we can help!

This web resource provides essential information and resources to help you rapidly scale-up or start distance education. We have curated useful resources posted in online forums, from partnering organizations, and (some) from K12 and post-secondary sources – selecting and organizing with an eye to what will best support adult language, literacy, and basic education programs ramp up or start their distance learning options. We also offer strategies for implementation, drawn from over a decade of work in distance and blended learning in adult basic education through the IDEAL Consortium (formerly Project IDEAL).

Keep up with the latest news

This site will be continuously updated. Please be sure to sign up for our newsletter for updates and check our calendar for upcoming webinars, events and more. 

For advice, consider following discussions in the LINCS Community of Practice, specifically the Integrating Technology group. To ask questions about some of these issues join LINCS. Then join the Integrating Technology group.  Please be sure to check with your state adult basic education agency for local guidance.

NEW Fall 2020 PD Offerings!

Every 2nd Friday – Distance Education Strategy Sessions: Held every 2nd Friday at 10 AM PST, 12 PM CST and 1 PM EST via Zoom, the EdTech Center convenes leaders, practitioners, educators and more to share and discuss your distance learning questions. Register here.

Every 4th Friday – Distance Ed Strategies & Solutions: ProLiteracy & the EdTech Center @ World Education are thrilled to announce that we are teaming up to offer a professional development series, Distance Ed Strategies & Solutions, starting in September! Our teams will be co-hosting webinar sessions every 4th Friday of the month, starting September 25th. Register here.

Guidance for Programs – How to Rapidly Set-Up & Implement Distance Learning Programs

How to get started right now

Setting up an effective distance education program usually takes a bit of planning, some pilot testing with selected groups of students, and ample professional development for teachers and staff who make it happen. You might be in a situation right now that makes this impossible. Our guidance to you is to do what you can, and quickly, so that you can support learners immediately. Then circle back to build on your early decisions and actions. The steps listed here will set you on the right path.

    Our step-by-step guide to getting started right now!

    Our brief Ready, Set, Go: Steps to Rapidly Start Distance Learning provides step-by-step guidance and resources on how to get started. This brief covers: 

    • Planning how you’ll communicate to learners
    • Understanding the technology resources available
    • Support and training needed for teachers and learners
    • Selecting and organizing learning content

    Other Resources:

    Internet Access

    Get your students online. Here are offers from Internet service providers.

    • Comcast: 2 months free internet to low-income individuals.
    • Charter: Free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription and at any service level up to 100 Mbps. To enroll call 1-844-488-8395. Installation fees will be waived for new student households.
    • Queens University of Charlotte has compiled this list of offers
    • National Digital Inclusion Alliance has also compiled a list of free or low-cost plans which is updated daily.

    Instructional Resources and Learning Content

    We have gathered links to resources and special offers from our publisher partners and practitioner communities of practice. Please make use of our guidance for evaluating these tools as you explore them.

    Note that a brief on how to evaluate and match this content to your program goals and learning needs is coming soon! 

    Learning Resources

    There are a multitude of resources online, many of which are currently free or at a low-cost. We’ve attempted to group them thematically.

    Free learning resource directories

    These sites list useful online curricula, digital technologies, and communication resources that can be used to support teaching and learning.


    OER repositories

    Open Education Resources (OER) are media, lesson plans, activities, and other learning resources that are free and available for teachers to use or adapt.

    Deals from app developers

    We have heard from several publishers and content developers who have created special offers during the COVID-19 crisis. Below are a few who have reached out to us; to compare product offerings visit Workforce EdTech which provides detailed information on platform features, evidence of effectiveness and more. 

    There are certainly others, and we are happy to add them to this list. Please complete this form to share information about any special offers you have found out about; we’ll  link to them here.

    If you are a developer or publisher of content for ABE and adult ESOL, please share your offers here and with ISTE for inclusion in the national database they are supporting.

    Tools You Need for Teaching

    Choosing learning resources that include the instructional content your learners need is an important task. Once you decide what to share, you need to decide how.

    Tools for meeting with students

    Explore these options for meeting through videoconference. Poll your learners and then choose the app that most of them use. 

    • Zoom. Currently, there is no time limit with free accounts. Visit the Zoom Covid19 page for resources and tutorials on using Zoom to teach, including this blog on how to keep your Zoom event safe. 
    • Google Hangouts. Currently, there is free access to advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers. Watch this video on how to use Google Meet presented and posted by Sherry Lehane.
    • Skype. Set up video conferencing or phone calls for free.
    • BigBlueButton. Free and premium versions. Either version can be easily integrated into a learning management system.
    • Uber Conference. Free version allows 45 minutes.

    Already using a platform? Check out these resources below for maximizing videoconferencing features for effective instruction. 

    Tools for sharing content

    Explore these popular options for posting learning content online.

    Workforce EdTech: Learning & Training page includes descriptions of a range of edtech tools, including learning management systems.

    Learning Management Systems:

    • Canvas
    • Edmodo
    • Google Classrooms – Watch the Planning Now for Online Classes: Using Free Google Classroom Resources webinar developed by the SABES team in Massachusetts. Access onboarding resources in several languages here.
    • Moodle

    Simple Website Builders:

    Simple options if you don’t have a website:


    Implementation Areas

    Running effective distance education requires more than handing out URLs and login information. You need to attend to key implementation areas as you can. The information below offers strategies, resources, and examples to help you get started and then enhance your implementation in the coming weeks.

    Recruitment, Screening, & Orientation

    It is rare that a learner sees a link or QR code and independently signs up for and persists in online learning. Solid recruitment, screening, and orientation practices will ensure that your program’s distance education options are noticed and that, once they start, learners are best situated to persist.

    Guidance for outreach, recruitment, screening and orientation

    Our brief Implementation Tips: Recruitment, Screening, & Orientation provides step-by-step guidance, resources and tips on how to recruit, screen and orient learners. This brief covers:

    • How to communicate and do outreach about your distance learning program
    • Finding learners
    • Goal-setting and expectations
    • On-boarding learners to new technologies

    Other resources

    Teaching Online: Communicating and Tracking Learner Progress

    Distance Education allows for a continuum of instructional support; however, the amount of instructor involvement positively impacts the quality of the student experience and increased involvement means increased student success. To ensure learner persistence, programs need to think about how to best communicate with learners and track their progress, syncing these two tasks to promote engagement.

    Guidance for communicating and tracking learner progress

    Our brief Teaching Online: Communicating and Tracking Progress provides step-by-step guidance, resources and tips on how to communicate and track learner progress in a distance learning program. This brief covers:

    • Transitioning to an online classroom
    • Monitoring learning and learner progress
    • Communication strategies to support learner engagement

    Other resources

    Assessment: Monitoring, Supporting, & Reporting Learner Progress

    Use assessment for several reasons: for placement before instruction begins, to gauge learner progress, and to measure how well instruction is working. Determining placement and measures of program effectiveness are often accomplished using standardized tests (e.g. TABE, CASAS, and BEST Plus), but if you are working completely remotely, you may need to rely on the assessments included in an online curriculum. After placement, gauge learner progress using a combination of formative and summative assessment strategies.

    Guidance for assessing and monitoring learner progress

    Our brief Assessment: Monitoring & Supporting Learner Progress provides step-by-step guidance, resources and tips on assessment strategies and activities, as well as NRS testing and reporting. This brief covers:

    • Making good use of online curriculum assessment tools
    • Project and portfolio-based assessments
    • Formative assessment through interaction with learners

    Guidance on Distance Learning Policies and Counting Hours

    We have put together guidance on distance learning policies, including how to count and report proxy contact hours.

    Guidance for reporting learner progress

    Our brief Implementation: Reporting and Counting Hours shares key information about federal guidance on distance learning policy, including how to count and report proxy contact hours for distance learning.

    This brief covers:

    • A brief overview of how to count time a learner spends in distance education (as an alternative to taking attendance)
    • Links to key policy documents from the National Reporting System Highlights from OCTAE’s Memo from March 2020
    • Two examples of how programs can count the time learners spend completing for teacher created materials.
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